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BSCI 1510L Literature and Stats Guide: 3.3 Calculating Descriptive Statistics using Excel

Introduction to Biological Sciences lab, first semester

3.3 Calculating Descriptive Statistics using Excel

Note: to calculate the descriptive statistical values in this section, you must have enabled the Data Analysis Tools in Excel for Windows.  This has already been done on the lab computers but if you are using a computer elsewhere, you may need to enable it.  Go to the Excel Reference home page for instructions for PC and Mac.

What is "descriptive statistics"?  It is not a specific or special thing.  It is merely a phrase that encompasses values that are derived based on a set of numbers (data set) that help to explain or describe attributes of that data set.  By doing "descriptive statistics" as Excel does, it produces more value terms than we need in the 1510L course. It is just doing things quickly at one time.  So rather than doing a formula for the SUM of the data set, a formula for the AVERAGE of the data set, a formula for the MEAN of the data set, a formula for the Standard Deviation of the data set, a formula for the Standard Error of the data set, and several other functions, you can simply do the descriptive statistics of the data set with one set of buttons rather than doing several individual formulas.

To calculate descriptive statistics for a column of data, click on the Data ribbon.  Click on Data Analysis in the Analysis section.  Select Descriptive Statistics, then click OK.  Click on the Input Range selection button, then select the range of cells for the column.  (If you include a column label in your selection, check the "Labels in first row" checkbox. This lets Excel know that the first selected cell in your series is what you call the data.)  Check the Summary Statistics checkbox.  To put the results on the same sheet as the column of numbers, click on the Output Range radio button then click on the selection button.  Click on the upper left cell of the area of the sheet where you would like for the results to go.  Then press OK.